/ Money

We want the freedom to pay. Our way.

While there has been a decline in its use, cash remains immensely popular and important for many people. In a huge win for the 140,000+ supporters who backed our campaign, we welcome the Government’s move to commit to protecting it.

Update 03/05/2019

We welcome the government’s unprecedented commitment to ensuring cash continues to be available to those who need it.

With bank branches closing at a rate of more than 60 a month, and thousands of free-to-use cash machine disappearing from our streets, this is a huge victory for the 140,000+ supporters who backed our campaign.

David Chaplin, head of campaigns at Which?, said:

“Millions of people across the UK who rely on cash in their daily lives are currently at risk of being stripped of their ability to pay for essential goods and services – so the Government’s unprecedented commitment to protecting cash should finally offer them some reassurance.

This new body must act urgently to address rapid changes to the cash landscape, as its success will be judged by how it ensures people can continue to access their preferred payment method in the face of bank branch and cashpoint closures, intermittent broadband access and regular IT glitches affecting digital payment methods”

You can read more about the history of our campaign below.

Campaign launch 12/02/2019

For some, cash is a day-to-day necessity they couldn’t live without. For most of us it’s a vital backup when digital payment systems fail.

Cash is a reliable and trusted payment method and that’s why we’re calling for the UK’s cash infrastructure to be protected for as long as people need it.

Freedom to pay. Our Way.

Millions of people across the UK rely on cash for essential purchases. Around 2.2 million, have said that they are almost entirely dependent on cash to live their lives.

Don’t trash cash

From those in rural areas to those on low incomes who use it to budget, from older people who’ve always used it to small business owners who need it for trade – we know that having free access to cash is still a necessity for over 25 million people across the country.

And we are concerned that over reliance on card-based and digital payments could mean everyone is left struggling to pay when these systems go down.

There have been a number of problems relating to the processing of payments in the past 12 months, including the outage of VISA payments last year and recent IT failures for RBS, Barclays, TSB, Halifax, Co-op and Cashplus.

Pay your way

We believe everyone should be able to pay for goods and services with whichever form of payment suits their needs – and cash should be protected for as long as we need it.

2018 Which? research shows that almost three quarters of adults in the UK say they use cash at least two or three times a week, including 60% of 18 to 24 year olds.

We’ve become concerned that without regulatory oversight to help manage the transition, the millions of people still reliant on cash risk being left behind.

That’s why today we launch our new campaign to ensure everyone continues to have access to cash and we are calling on the government to appoint a regulator that will help protect the UK’s cash infrastructure.

We’re calling for:

■ The government give a single regulator the statutory duty to protect your access to cash and to build a sustainable cash infrastructure for the UK.

■ The Payment Systems Regulator to immediately stop cash machines disappearing from communities that rely on them.

■ Banks to ensure customers are adequately supported as we move towards an increasingly digital society.

Cash is king

There are few topics that have attracted so much debate in our community as access to cash. And we’ve been listening.

Jen wrote last year:

We are in a village with no cash point and now no banks at our nearest town. If cashpoints are closed we will all struggle. Bus services to larger towns are also being reduced so it’s going to be really difficult for us to manage our finances.

And Andrea wrote:

It’s not just a question of obtaining cash. I have had the misfortune to have several attempts at fraud on my bank account this year. Now my local branch has closed (and the ATM removed, of course) if my account is frozen again I have to go with photographic ID to another branch.

The nearest is about 3 miles away, and there is a bus service and I do have a car, but it is still very inconvenient to have to drop everything and rush off to this branch.

Our regular community member Wavechange added:

There could be various serious consequences of removal of ATMs. People who had difficulty in accessing money could keep more cash at home, encouraging crime. Those who don’t understand computers/phones and security issues are more likely to be subject to fraud.

Removal of easy access to cash also pushes us towards a cash-free society, though the ban on card surcharges has temporarily delayed this with many small businesses reasonably refusing to take card payments for small transactions.

No one’s in any doubt that cash use is on the decline, but without a central body to protect those who still need to use cash, too many are at risk of being left behind.

That’s why we think paying for goods and services with cash should be an option available to everyone in the UK for as long as it remains necessary.

Do you still use cash on a regular basis in your day to day life or in your work or business? Has your access to cash, such as from cashpoints or banks, been reduced in recent years? We’d like to know your stories.


Philip Blakeley says:
27 May 2019

How on earth can anyone think of getting rid of hard earned cash when there are hundreds of thousands of people who only use cash to make any purchase or pay Bill’s.
It is a ludicrous idea.

Peter says:
28 May 2019

I’ve always been against ATM charges and never use them I would rather walk the extra few mins to find one etc if they exist, it’s disgusting they’re phasing out free cash withdrawals like this for many people and they know they get away with it just like TFL does raising prices each year because many or most people cannot live without these services, it’s extortion! Making society cashless is pushing power further into the tech companies and also hackers, there’s always a human cost for ‘progress’

I was in a bowls competition on Sunday and, remarkably, won with my partner – £30 between us. 6 people in all received cash prizes in envelopes – a tenner and a fiver each for we two.

Should the presentation ceremony in future be an exchange of on-line banking details possibly accompanied by six Confirmation of Payee messages and perhaps smartphone messages to verify the authenticity of the payments?

I also contributed a £2 coin to the raffle – unsuccessfully. Contactless card in future?

Suggesting we force all payments into a “new” model seems to be following a mantra rather than common sense. Electronic forms of payment are extremely useful, even though for many they have potential security issues if they are used irresponsibly or in ignorance. But, like with transport, there’ll always be room for bicycles.

The financial institutions seem intent on reducing our options to pay by removing cheques and cash. This will have devastating effect on the finances of charities that rely on small donations from boxes in shops. Charities and other small businesses also require at least two signatories on cheques to protect them against theft. In many instances banks will not issue charities with cards. These institutions classify themselves as “Service industries”, this begs the question “who do they serve”.

As far as I know cheques are being retained and I doubt we’ve seen the back of cash. We’ll have a variety of payment methods for the foreseeable future in my assessment.

Andy Sykes says:
29 May 2019

I am currently seeing if Yorkshire bank will reimburse me on a scam.

Gus says:
29 May 2019

I am uncomfortable with the idea of all our payments being potentially subject to monitoring by private companies and/or the state – paying by cash is a privacy issue.

Robert says:
1 June 2019

I have to say Barclays were on the ball when someone tried to take money out of my account. Although a small amount, they had reimbursed my account even before I knew about it. They were very quick in stopping any more transactions from my account. And then informed me about the details.

In a circular to promote their “Premier Banking” app, Barclays say “You’re protected by our Mobile Banking Guarantee – which means, if you’re an innocent victim of fraud, we’ll give you your money back.”

That leaves me wondering whether or not there could be such a thing as a non-innocent (== guilty?) victim of fraud….

Presumably this that you would be reimbursed unless you have contributed to the loss, for example by passing on your PIN or login details. Hopefully this information is easy to find.

Derek, give me the password to your current account, I will make all your money disappear then you can claim you are a victim………….🤑 (We can go halves on wot I get)

Great minds think alike……..and cross-post.!!!

alpha, sorry but, I don’t need your help to make all my money disappear. I already have enough family and friends to ensure that this happens regularly.

I wonder if it would be helpful to use the terms ‘secret PIN’ and ‘secret password’ to draw attention to the fact that they must not be divulged to anyone.

While you are campaigning to save ATMs and cash, please investigate the impact of branch closures.

There are other constructive options to look at, like the Post Office offering facilities for most banks and involving many more shops in dispensing cash.

Margaret says:
6 June 2019

Doing away with cash will create another disadvantaged section of society, also put a lot of people out of work in that historic industry. I am over 80yrs and I rely on drawing cash as a way of controlling my weekly budget.

Diane Burniston says:
6 June 2019

Access to cash is a necessity. The only ones to benefit from more card usage and branch closures are the banks – the customer is treated as an inconvenience.

I really appreciate being able to carry out most transactions by card. It saves me the bother of having to get cash out and then lug it around with me.

I don’t like the idea of being charged extra if you want to pay a parking charge by cash! Many parking meters in large car parks are doing that and that’s really bad for those who don’t have credit cards as a matter of principle.

There was another conversation on the cashless society 5 years ago, with interesting points made (and being repeated) – https://conversation.which.co.uk/money/card-payments-cashless-society/#cpage-1. It would be useful when Which? keep reviving topics if they produced a fair summary of what has already been said in the past. A deficiency of Convos in general is this lack of a summary at intervals; I suspect many people may quickly read the intro and/or just respond to a comment on the current page, ignoring what has been said on previous pages.

Teresa says:
18 June 2019

I think it is outrageous to even consider removing cash from society. Another step by those in power and the banking institutions to separate the have from the have nots. Yes of course it is handy to pay for items by card, but I still want the opportunity to use cash if I want to. Currently my bank Barclays who I have been with for a very long time, have now shut down numerous branches of the bank in an effort, as far as I am concerned, to get me to do on line banking. Yes I order things on line, book a table in a restaurant, pay my driving licence and car tax on line, but NO, I will not use on line banking. It is not safe still regardless of what they maintain and I want to choose how I want to access my money. Again institutions and their lackeys telling the population what to do. My choices in everything are slowly being taken away in the name of them, these big organisations and government saving money which they take in their huge salaries and bonuses.

Diana says:
18 June 2019

Totally agree with you Teresa, although I try not to pay for anything online at all as it cannot be trusted. The town that I moved to in 2016 had x3 national banks located there, for the last 3/4 we have none, although with thanks to our Post Office we have some access to payment methods as well as our cash. That is preferable to using in the street cash machines which are decreasing in number anyway.
I am a pensioner and mobile but still have to use my car to get to the nearest banks and building societies , in either direction west or east they are 10 miles away approximately. All my friends and ex- colleagues feel very strongly about this issue. Actions are needed as well as statements of intent. As an additional comment, my 96 yr old mother, who lives in the Midlands, no longer drives nor can she readily access her local bank and will not bank etc online.

John Baker says:
20 June 2019

Here’s is my ‘2 penny worth’ (no pun intended) Issues that come to mind are Charity collections, pocket money for youngsters, Their birthdays, simple things like the joy of giving them money to buy an ice cream, partly helping them to understand, and calculate change/ maths. Not to mention those that have spent their whole life using it, and appreciating it
Although there are many more examples I personally feel comfortable having a reserve on me even though
I make considerable use of my debit card
I feel a sense of vulnerability knowing the banks inability to control their IT / Software and the misery it seems to cause when for whatever excuse it fails their clients big time

Mike Castro says:
11 October 2019

Big stores like Tesco offer cash back which is simple enough.
Banks charges the shop a fee to carry out the transaction.
So… if the bank didn’t charge for the transaction a small corner shop could offer cash back from money in the till.

Ok, the shop may not have thousands in the till so limit the transaction on any one day to £30. The bank then pays the amount directly into the shops account which saves the shop paying in and the bank a bit of paperwork. With computerised systems this should be rocket science. Ok this will need some tweaking but if it can be done in Tesco anywhere else shouldn’t be difficult.

Part of the problem is that the banks want us to ditch cash and use cards instead. It’s what they call their ‘War on Cash’, and forces us (and retailers) to continue to use and accept debit cards. Therefore phasing out the free to use ATMs pushes us toward card usage and they’re in a win, win situation. For a lot of retailers, strange as it may seem, cash is cheaper for them to accept than cards – mainly due to the high costs they incur to accept cards, which most of us are unaware of.

Some of us have been proposing the following additional way of accessing cash for a year or more. The decline in ATMs is inevitable, given our reduced use of them, so we need to look at other ways, particularly ways that can help far more people than have ever lived close to an ATM, bank branch or post office.

I hope Which? will join in developing and supporting this initiative instead of focusing on just one solution that is clearly less viable without increasing subsidy (from us). The objective, surely, is not only maintaining but increasing convenient access to cash for as many people as possible, not just those in more remote, less populated, parts of the UK but also in the suburbs of towns and cities.

Local community cash recycling:
UK Finance believes that retailer cashback has a more significant role to play and can support the efficient recycling of cash in local communities, as well as providing much needed support for High Streets generally. Cashback can drive a healthy and efficient local cash ecosystem, whereby cash spend in shops is re-drawn and spent again locally, rather than directed back to central hubs for redistribution. UK Finance will monitor and support various retailer cashback pilots and initiatives that have the ability to drive efficient recycling of cash in local communities. UK Finance is encouraged by the positive dialogue it has held with regulators on supporting cashback initiatives which are in train.|

Which? report the following “extreme”:
“In the most extreme example, the people of Tighnabruaich in Scotland must take a ferry ride, or a 40-minute car journey, to access the nearest free machine, which is 37km miles away. The area has a Post Office 2km away, which is open during working hours or a fee-charging (£1.99) machine.

Read more: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2019/10/taking-a-ferry-to-the-atm-which-areas-face-the-longest-treks-to-a-free-cash-machine/ – Which?

This seems a good example of where “local community cash recycling” (see comment above) would help everyone. Tighnabruaich seems to have, from information on the web, several small businesses that no doubt could recycle cash, from general stores, tourist shops, cafes and tea rooms, pubs and hotels. ATMs are not the exclusive source of cash.

Tighnabruaich’s only one example. Quite a few places in Scotland’s West and North coasts where cash is in very short supply.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Thanks, duncan.
I cited Tyneabrooich ( 🙂 ), simply because Which? used it as an extreme example, to show how, by taking the blinkers off ATMs as the problem, other convenient means of accessing cash are or could be available – unless you must access cash out of hours, and we’ve managed that in the past by organising our lives properly.

I have no problem pronouncing Tighnabruaich, it’s Milngavie and Kirkcudbright that trip me up. But then it’s similar in Norfolk – Happisburgh is pronounced Hazebro’ and Wymondham is pronounced Windum, and there are many other ellipses all round the county.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Request an ATM: https://www.link.co.uk/consumers/suggest/

Maybe life could be easier for those who live in rural Scotland and Wales.

See above 🙂